By Giselle Weybrecht, Special Advisor to the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education; read the original article published at the PRiME time blog 

Blueprint for SDG integration2020 marks both five years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Action to ensure the achievement of these Global Goals. It is with this backdrop that the 3rd PRME Champion Cycle have developed, and recently launched, a new guidance document to support business schools in contributing and achieving the SDGs. The SDG Blueprint for SDG Integration aims to provide a practical guide, concepts and frameworks to support business schools as they integrate the SDGs into their curricula, research and partnerships.

The resource starts with an overview of the purpose of the SDGs including their origins before looking more deeply at the main contributions that business schools can make to achieve the SDGs. A basic framework (the PRME SDG Compass) is presented that can be used by faculty leading SDG integration and some practical guidance, tools and examples to help business and management schools engage with the SDGs in a systematic way. While it acknowledges that no “one size fits all”, the resources in the book provide inspiration and guidance for schools to create their own SDG pathways.

Why are business schools important for the SDGs and vice versa?

“Working collaboratively and across disciplines, business school researchers can incubate imaginative new models which produce progress towards reaching the SDGs.”

The document explores a number of ways that business schools are impacted by and contribute to the SDGs. For example, it explores how business schools have the potential to shine a critical lens on both practice and policy for implementing the SDGs, applying theory in new ways to the “wicked problems” underpinning the SDGs. Business schools can also play an important role in monitoring and evaluating the changes and contributions business makes to turn the 2030 Agenda into a reality, and find appropriate indicators and benchmarks for tracking results. In terms of curriculum, there is a need to emphasize systems thinking by studying organisations in their wider societal context, as opposed to a narrow business and management context. In terms of partnerships, higher education institutions hold an important position in society as neutral and trusted partners that can drive innovation in a knowledge economy. Therefore, they have the responsibility and convening power to guide and shape local, national and international responses to the SDGs by enabling multi-stakeholder dialogues and partnerships.

How should business schools go about doing this?

“Without commitment from both directions, the SDGs will remain peripheral to an institution and its mission, strategy, resource allocation and activities.”

Integrating the SDGs, according to this resource, is about a simultaneous top-down and bottom-up commitment. It is more likely to be realized if it is laid out in the vision and mission statement and institutional values. It also depends on the alignment of the organization and individual academic interests; the alignment of individual academic interests with one or more Global Goals; and academics’ belief that integrating the SDGs into their work will make their own teaching and research even more relevant for their students and corporate clients.

What are the PRME Champion schools doing?

The report features several examples of ways schools are approaching the SDGs. In terms of mapping the SDGs, the University of Worcester in the UK is developing an automated mapping tool to measure, in percentage terms, the degree to which the SDGs feature in modules and degree programmes of a given Institution, as well as the percentage of research related to the SDGs. Several schools, including ISAE and the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons have used the Haub SDG Dashboard as a way of visualizing and analysing this information. More tools and approaches are presented in the report.

In terms of curriculum, Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph in Canada, all undergraduate students engage in courses dedicated to the SDGs during their first and third years of study. At the University of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, all undergraduate students engage with the SDGs in a core course, Business and Society, to learn about the key challenges faced by developing countries. The University of Lugano and the Stockholm School of Economics collaboratively developed and deliver a course called “The World in the Making: Tackling World Challenges”. The Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa has designed new sustainability focused programmes.

Several schools are engaging in SDG related research. Kemmy Business School tackles issues of inequality addressed in SDG 10 (reduced Inequalities) through research taxation. Stockholm School of Economics are collaborating with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a UN interagency working group to look at the SDGs, particularly the interdependencies between them. Nottingham Business School in the UK has focused on recruiting distinguished researchers who act as catalysts within SDG research areas

In terms of partnerships, ISAE in Brazil used stakeholder perception of the SDGs as a guideline for their sustainability strategy, which in turn helped them define future partnerships and collaborations. Nottingham Business school collaborated with other HEIs, including the University of Winchester for “Pass It On”, a partnership that shows how popular music can be used as a way to discuss climate change and climate action.

Resources that can be used

The SDG Blueprint also links to a number of additional resources that can be used by schools in their efforts. The UN Global Compact alone has produced more than 200 resources including the SDG CompassPRiMEtime highlights some of the work schools are doing around the SDGs. The UN Business Action HUB is an online platform to find partners and post commitments and goals to advance the SDGs and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s SDG Academy provides resources and training. Also take a look at the PRME Transformation Model to use as a basis for systematically integrating the Six Principles and the SDGs into a business school’s operations. A number of tools can also be used including the Sustainability Literacy Test, the GAP FrameAim2Flourish and Wikirate to expand introduction of the SDGs to students and executives.

For more read the SDG Blueprint and for questions contact the authors: Alec Wersun (Glasgow School for Business and Society, UK) and Johanna Klatt (Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden), Fara Azmat and Harsh Suri (Deakin Business School, Australia), Christian Hauser (University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons, Switzerland), Jill Bogie (Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa); and Mark Meaney (Leeds School of Business, US).

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